Lodwick Challenge organizers Johnny Fisher, left, and Erik Lunde present U.S. Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick with a trail sign commemorating the Lodwick Loop at The Home Ranch in Clark on Sunday.

Photo by Tom Ross

Lodwick Challenge organizers Johnny Fisher, left, and Erik Lunde present U.S. Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick with a trail sign commemorating the Lodwick Loop at The Home Ranch in Clark on Sunday.

Tom Ross: Start out slow and taper off

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

— Dennis Lodwick offered a little race strategy at The Home Ranch on Sunday morning.

Figuring that if anyone knows how to get the best of Lodwick’s son, Todd, in a cross-country ski race, it would be the old man, so I slipped Dennis a $5 bill and whipped out my reporter’s notebook, preparing to take detailed notes.

“Start out slow, and then taper off,” Dennis whispered in my ear.

I executed the elder Lod­wick’s advice to a fault, but it did me no good.

Roughly 1.3 kilometers into a 3-kilometer race, Todd Lodwick blew by me so quickly that for a moment, I thought I was moving backwards. Who knows, maybe I was. Wasn’t it the famous skier, Albert Einstein, who postulated that time travel was a possibility in his theory of Nordic relativity?

Even with a head start 2 minutes and 30 seconds, I understood from the beginning I would hold off the reigning world champion Nordic combined skier for only a brief moment in time and space. But I would defy anyone with a shred of competitiveness in their nature to step to a starting line and not feel pressure to put a little extra git-a-long in their giddy-up with one of the best skiers in the world hot on their tail.

In my mind, I was going to make it to the top of a little hill at the halfway point where I would slow down and wait for Todd so we could exchange a little chit-chat.

“Lookin’ good, T-o-o-o-dd! Bye-bye.”

All I really had time to say was, “Oh no!” and he was gone, his fire-orange stocking cap putting a 200-meter gap on me in what felt like 12 seconds.

You’re probably curious to know if anyone did manage to hold Todd off at the finish line. The answer is yes. John Freckleton found a way to make the system work for him.

Freckleton, who placed third in the classic style division of the 45-kilometer race in the Coureur des Bois in 2010, realized that he would enjoy a bigger time penalty over Lodwick if he stuck with his classic skis, and left the start line in one of the early waves of skiers. Freckleton got a big head start on Lodwick and had a comfortable margin with a half kilometer to go.

“I really didn’t think that would be enough” of a head start, Freckleton said. “I double-poled most of the way.”

What mattered even more than the race to the finish line was that organizers Erik Lunde, Dave Miller and Dan Smilkstein pulled off a beauty of a first-time event in the first Lodwick Challenge Fun-Raiser that managed to generate more than $3,500 toward a new piece of grooming equipment for Bruce’s Trail on Rabbit Ears Pass.

A good number of local businesses contributed toward the “fun-raiser,” and The Home Ranch, with General Manager Johnny Fisher and chefs Clyde Nelson and John Bitume, led the way.

They even named the race course in the big hay meadow at The Home Ranch, Lodwick’s Loop. I might have caught a trace of emotion in Todd’s voice when they handed him the new trail sign.

“I must say, it’s a humbling experience to have a trail named after you,” Lodwick said.

The 2010 Olympic silver medalist had a treat for all of the contestants who were able to race for a day in his actual World Cup competition bibs collected from all across Europe.

If you’ve always wanted to race in a Holmenkollen bib from Oslo, Norway, meet me at the Lodwick Challenge in 2012. I should be a lot faster by then.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail tross@SteamboatToday.com

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